Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role when companies, governments and cities wish to drive sustainable growth. But establishing and running partnerships is a new leadership dicipline. Leaderlab Founder & Managing Partner Sofus Midtgaard was in Istanbul this week to give a keynote on the topic.

In a 2015 survey by MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the United Nations Global Compact, 90% of executives state that collaboration is important to address sustainability challenges while only 47% are actively engaged in sustainability collaboration and partnerships.

Over the last five years partnerships to drive sustainable growth have become increasingly important. Systemic challenges – i.e. unaware investors, disengaged citizens, lack of enabling policy or introduction of new standards throughout a supply chain – are all issues that no-one company can address on its own.

With the Sustainable Development Goals it was outlined that multi-stakeholder partnerships are fundamentally necessary and should encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships.

Paul Polman

“When you look at any issue, such as food or water scarcity, it is very clear that no individual institution, government or company can provide the solution”

Poul Polman, CEO, UNILEVER

Collaboration and partnerships play a critical role in addressing systemic barriers, driving collaborative innovation and sharing risk. But like most complex projects, partnerships have a failure rate of about 50 % (Harvard Business Review, 2004). Here are 10 rules for successful sustainability partnerships that will help you avoid the most common pitfalls and help you build partnerships that last and will drive change.

Cyrus Wadia opening Summit Nike HQ

Cyrus Wadia opening Summit Nike HQ

”These are massive problems of scale. they are going to require an ecosystem of thinkers and solvers and creative minds.”

Cyrus Wadia, VP, Nike


Haakan Nordkvist, IKEA opening the LAUNCH Circular Innovation Summit at Nike HQ

Håkan Nordkvist, Head of Sustainability Innovation IKEA Group.

“Collaboration can bring great results, for example we work closely with Nike to pioneer new techniques for textile dyeing that dramatically reduce the use of water, energy and chemicals”

Håkan Nordkvist, Head of Sustainability Innovation, IKEA Group


Here are the slides from the presentation:



10 Rules for Sustainability Partnerships




Partnerships should make you able to achieve something you can not achieve on your own. Partnerships should never be the parking lot for difficult CSR-agendas better solved alone


sweet-spot2. FIND THE SWEET SPOT

Senior leadership support might give you a head start – but unless you find a sweet spot for the participating managers you will fail. Make sure to find a sweet spot/overlap between core strategic priorities of the partners.




Many stakeholders often result in cluttered goals and reporting. Agree on a moonshot, or at least set a few but ambitious goals, that will aspire people for change.



No partnership can run on money alone. Only by leaning in you will harvest the real benefits of a partnership.





You can prepare, make strategies and plans – but in the end it always comes down to people. A partnership needs champions who would die in a ditch for what the partnership is trying to achieve.





If a partnership is strategic, staff it like it is strategic! Include people from relevant business units – not just the CSR department.




Unconventional partners will bring new perspectives and spur innovation. Watch out for the usual suspects when forming partnerships.




Some of the most effective partnerships are the ones that map, connect and embrace existing initiatives – rather than conquer them. This is especially true when it comes to systemic challenges.



Even a focused partnership with few and clear goals will produce unexpected value for partners. Be open for surprises and calibrate your measures of success.




You can achieve amazing things if you are able to step back and let other people step into the limelight.


Haakan Nordkvist, IKEA ad Cyrus Wadia, Nike

Haakan Nordkvist, IKEA and Cyrus Wadia, Nike on stage at LAUNCH CIRCULAR INNOVATION SUMMIT, March 2017.

Up to 50% of all partnerships fail to deliver value and are terminated before time (HBR, 2004). Try to think about these 10 rules in relation to your existing partnerships or next time you consider entering a new partnership.

If you have reflections or suggestions to this list please feel free to contact us.  If you need help shaping a new partnership, mapping potential partners or focusing and energizing an existing partnership, do not hesitate on contact us:

Sofus Midtgaard, Managing Partner & Toke Sabroe, Partner, Leaderlab.

We need a Food Revolution


By 2050 people living in cities will increase by 2.5-3.0 billion caused by urbanization. Climate Change will impact food production worldwide. And while obesity cost 2.0 trillion $ globally in treatments we still have 800 million people going to bed hungry every night. A new LAUNCH movement LAUNCH Food want’s to meet these global challenges. At Leaderlab we are engaged and helped organize LAUNCH Food’s third Big Think at IKEAs HQ in Malmø, August 17, 2016.

Everybody’s talking about how we need to change the food system and behaviorism around food. Topics like Population Growth, Urbanisation, a growing global Middle Class, Under-Nutrition, Food Security, Local Food, Obesity, Diabetes and Food Waste are making headlines globally.

August 17, 2016 LAUNCH invited partners from both industry, governments, global corporations, catering and foundations and ask them to imagine a Food Revolution.


Nordic, US and Australian Ministries, UN-institutions, Global companies, Bio-dynamic Food-innovators and Scientists joined forces to identify areas of collective-action/intervention and new innovation opportunity areas.


IKEA’s new headquarter provided a great location and frame for discussing how to mobilize a Global Food Revolution.

Increasingly, the quality and quantity of the world’s food supply is changing – and so is the way that people eat. The result is malnutrition and poor health in many communities across the world.


Within hours of work the participants handed in the first ideas of which areas they found the most central for a Food Revolution. Afterwards a session of potential questions helped categorize and organize the structure of the challenge within the field. Passion, desire to change and concrete call for solutions created a atmosphere reflecting the importance of the theme. A successful and productive day among the Global and Nordic stakeholders providing a solid foundation for the upcoming challenge and call for innovators.


LAUNCH Food is calling for innovators, entrepreneurs, organizations, and individuals from around the world to put forward innovative solutions for improving global health outcomes by enabling people to make healthy food choices. The call for innovation will be announced end september 2016 at the LAUNCH Food website

LAUNCH appreciate all inputs and express gratitude for the participation in creating the first steps towards addressing one of the most contemporary problems.


For more information about LAUNCH Food details can be found at LAUNCH.ORG.


– Leaderlab: Sofus Midtgard: sofus@leaderlab.com
– Leaderlab: Sissel Ødegaard: sissel@leaderlab.com




Leaderlab, Danish Ministry of The Environment and the City of Copenhagen hosted a partnership session on Rethinking Packaging at this year’s Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) pre-meeting May 13, 2014.


The session united participants from IKEA, Unilever, ARLA, UNDP, Danish Ministry of The Environment, Danish Ministry of Business & Growth, City of Copenhagen, WRAP, WEF (YGL), Ellen MacArthur Foundation, EPEA  and Copenhagen Cleantech Cluster to Rethink Packaging.


Mervyn Jones, Head of Products & Materials, WRAP.


Ida Auken, MP & Former Minister of The Environment & WEF YGL

The session was kicked of by Ida Auken, MP & Former Minister of The Environment and WEF YGL and Mervyn Jones, Head of Products & Materials, WRAP.


The Challenge

With the rise of a new global ‘middle class’ with an increased buying power, the challenges around packaging and its environmental footprint will escalate globally. It’s a challenge that calls for international collaborations and innovations all the way through the value chain: from raw materials, chemistry, design, production, retail, use, disposal to recycling.



Pre-competitive collaboration around new packaging formats, material standards, reversed logistics, sorting systems and recycling facilities have the potential to dramatically reduce the footprint of the packaging industry and create new green jobs.

The Potentials in a Partnership

The partnership session attacked the current packaging challenge from two complementary perspectives:

1. A global collaboration focused on precompetitive industry collaboration and systems innovation

2. A local collaboration focused on sorting and recycling of plastics with Copenhagen City as test-bed


The Global Collaboration

The Global Collaboration session focused on engaging key stakeholders within packaging in identifying barriers and levers for a sustainable shift of the packing system. Ensuring that new innovative solutions within packaging that lowers the CO2, weather and chemical footprint are brought to scale requires an effort beyond that of the individual company or legislative organization.

systems-innovation-packagingThere is an urgent need to rethink packaging and to find innovative sustainable methods and approaches to the making and use of packing, across materials usage, packaging design, policy frameworks and consumer engagement.

The goal of the partnership is to engage key stakeholders in the packaging value chain in systems innovation to identify barriers and potentials for collaborative innovations and partnerships to drive a more sustainable packaging industry both globally and regionally.  We will aim at:

  • Engaging global actors across the value chain and society in greening the system of packaging
  • Help form precompetitive industry collaboration and system innovation to drive sustainable packaging
  • Identify and help scale disruptive innovations in sustainable packaging.

The Regional Collaboration

The Local Collaboration session took its outset in Copenhagen City. Copenhagen has been using a major share of waste generated in the city as a source of heat and electricity.  However with the plan for making Copenhagen carbon neutral by 2025 a disruptive shift will take place with the recovering of plastics from the waste stream and avoidance of incineration corresponding to about 12% of the required CO2 emissions reductions.

An important milestone in the Copenhagen plan for carbon neutrality is to ensure that by 2018 the following targets are met:

  • 20 percent reduction in waste to incineration – from 324,000 tonnes in 2010 to 260,000 tonnes in 2018
  • 45 percent of household waste to recycling – from 55,000 tonnes in 2010 to 100,000 tonnes in 2018.

Meeting these goals require significant technical and behavioral changes throughout the city that can only be achieved in collaboration with public and private partners. Implementing the circular economy approach and shifting the existing material stream of plastics in Copenhagen therefore requires strong public-private partnerships.


Let us help you drive transformational change!